Limos Would Be Cheaper
If state politicians are serious in looking for ways to cut expenditures, they will cancel the proposed MARC rail service between Frederick and Point of Rocks.
Some $50 million in capital expenditure is apparently required for this project, and the service is bound to run at a continuing annual loss of many millions, which will have to be found by taxpayers, too.
It is such a dog-legged route to Washington, D.C., via Point of Rocks, and such train service is typically so unreliable, it seems most unlikely to attract many motorists from I-270.
I recently called both county and state officials, who say none has any numbers on the likely ridership.
There has been no professional study, and there are no estimates of the likely patronage. One official told me that the best indication of likely ridership is the existing Meet-the-MARC van service, which he said is used by 50 to 60 people a day.
Let's be optimistic. Let's say the rail service triples the usage of the present van service. Say 150 people a day take the train from Frederick. The expenditure of $45 million on station construction, track update and rolling stock acquisition would therefore amount to a capital grant of $300,000 per commuter.
If annual losses on the service are $3 million -- a not unreasonable guess given the history of similar schemes -- the thing will cost taxpayers $20,000 per commuter per year to sustain.
It would therefore be a great saving to taxpayers to provide each precious commuter with a free stretched limousine and a uniformed chauffeur for dignified door-to-door transportation.
An additional benefit of this limo alternative would be the avoidance of terrible wrecks at the 11 unprotected at-grade crossings between Frederick and Point of Rocks.
Church Wants Members to Be Good Citizens
While it is widely acknowledged that major public issues have moral dimensions and that religious values have public consequences, there often is confusion regarding the participation of religious groups in public life.
Such confusion is manifested in a Sept. 8 letter written by J. Edward Johnston, who identifies himself as a Roman Catholic and says he wants his church "to get its moralistic agenda out of [his] political views."
The Catholic Church joins the public debate to share its experiences in serving the poor, the powerless and the defenseless, and to add its values to the political dialogue.
It seeks a community of conscience within the larger society whose members measure public issues against these central values. Its objectives are fairly characterized as "moralistic," but they are neither partisan nor ideological; rather, by focusing on the fundamental dignity of the human person, they cut across political categories.
This kind of participation does not involve religious tests for candidates, or telling people for whom they should vote. Rather, it seeks to lift up the moral dimensions of public issues. It encourages all people of good will to use their voices and their votes to enrich the social and political life of their communities. It encourages Catholics, as believers and as citizens, to use the resources of their faith in helping build a society that is more respectful of life and human dignity.
Catholics believe that the commandment to love one's neighbor extends to the entire community, inviting individual acts of charity to be sure, but also encouraging understanding and action on a broader scale, one that necessarily involves the institutions and structures of society, the economy and politics.
Involvement in this broader, pastoral realm means involvement in the affirmation of human rights and in the denunciation of human rights violations.
It encourages Catholics to call attention to the moral and religious dimensions of secular issues, to keep alive the values of the Gospel as norms for social and political life, and to advocate for peace and justice. Such a ministry inevitably touches upon public affairs and involves political consequences.
Unfortunately, the church's efforts in this area are sometimes misunderstood, even as in the case of Mr. Johnston, among the Catholic faithful.
The church's participation in public affairs is not a threat to the political process or to pluralism, but an affirmation of their importance. The church recognizes the legitimate autonomy of government and the right of all, including the church, to be heard in the formulation of public policy and the debate of public policy issues.
It is noteworthy that the discomfort caused Mr. Johnston by the church's "moralistic agenda" admits no challenge to either the nearly 2,000-year-old basis of the agenda, or the right of the church in the United States, guaranteed more than 200 years ago, to pursue it. This, at least, is a positive aspect of his letter.
Not so his claims that elected Maryland officials have been excommunicated for espousing his "political views of freedom of choice," and that priests have been ordered "to preach sermons instructing parishioners to vote against candidates who represent [his] views on pro-choice."
While the assertion that his congressional representatives have been excommunicated adds drama and urgency to his appeal, it is false, if not also malicious.
As to his second claim, it has long been the policy of all three Catholic dioceses in Maryland that the church and church organizations must not be involved in partisan politics. Expressions of preference for a political party, or of direct or indirect support for or opposition to candidates for public office, are not permitted.
Richard J. Dowling
The writer is the executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference.
The Drug Problem
I must say I was stunned and excited by your positive statements made in the editorial "What We Owe to Officer Weiner" (Sept. 22) regarding the issue of decriminalization. Your recognition of this idea is timely, considering the emotion presently raging through Baltimore City.
As the then-president of the Certified Addiction Counselors of Maryland (CACOM), I presented Mayor Kurt Schmoke (actually his stand-in, Dr. Maxie Collier) with our highest honor, designating him as the CACOM Person of the Year in 1988.
Although, as a professional organization, we did not take a stand on decriminalization, we did believe very strongly in the need to discuss all the ramifications of the drug problem. The hysterical reactions of the time prohibited even this.
To identify a problem, as pervasively serious as this, and to begin dealing with it by saying certain discussions are taboo, does not strike me as a sign of an enlightened society.
All attempts to make some sense out of the drug problem have come to naught. It's like eavesdropping at the Tower of Babel. We all think we understand each other when we speak about the drug problem -- but we are all speaking different languages.
There is no one drug problem. There are many drug problems. The drug problem is:
To a police officer -- automatic weapons on the street.
To a health officer -- communicable diseases and high risk populations.
To a social worker -- family dysfunction.
To a judge -- small-time crime and court logjams.
To a citizen -- breaking and entering, carjacking.
To an addiction counselor -- treatment for chemical abusers.
We all argue the drug problem from our own perspective. When we hear drug problem, we hear only what it means to us personally.
The drug problem is, in fact, all these problems. It is a crime problem, a public health problem, an addiction and treatment problem, a family problem and a society problem.
Because it is all these problems we must stop attempting to remedy with only one solution. We must have many solutions. Decriminalization of specific drugs may be one of those solutions. But it is not the answer.
Thomas E. Dolan
While many people feel the war on drugs is lost, I would like to share one personal battle that's been won. This October, I will be celebrating 20 years of being drug-free.
During my years of recovery, I have tried to share my experiences with young people, parents and anyone else who would listen.
My hope is that young people will realize that you can enjoy your life without alcohol and drugs, and if you do not get involved with drugs, that there is hope, recovery and a way out.
I am grateful to many people who have been instrumental in helping me go from being a drug addict in 1972 to being the director of the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse in 1992.
First and foremost are my parents, who stood by me in the "bad old days" and made sure I got help when I needed it.
Next, my former wife for putting up with my compulsions and teaching me true compassion.
Professionally, I need to thank Don Hutchinson and Dennis Rasmussen, former Baltimore County executives, for having the courage to hire and support an ex-addict's visions and dreams for a drug-free county. I also would like to thank current County Executive Roger Hayden for maintaining the commitment to this issue in spite of a terrible budget crisis.
But most of all I thank the young people, parents and all the citizens of Baltimore County who have supported me and allowed me to enter their homes (through our TV shows) and their hearts in doing a job that must be done to save our families and our communities.
Finally, to all those people who, like me, take their life one day at a time, I encourage you to share your stories and experiences.
It's the greatest weapon we have in the war on drugs.
Michael M. Gimbel
Are the Orioles Insensitive to Minorities?
I read with interest your article in The Sun of Sept. 6, "Blacks Shun America's Pastime."
The percentage of African Americans who attended baseball games is accurately reflected in the article (5 percent). Major league baseball, including the Orioles, must improve these numbers.
Nonetheless, the tacit representation of the Orioles as lagging in efforts to attract African Americans is wrong. The Orioles are among baseball's most progressive franchises.
For example, a major turnoff to African Americans has been the lack of prominent minority personnel in front office positions. In the Orioles structure, the positions of assistant general manager and vice president of business operations (who oversees personnel) are among the jobs administered by African Americans.
Moreover, the team's psychologist is black. Also, the Orioles are one of a handful of franchises to ever appoint a black manager.
Presently the manager of their Double A franchise is black. The chief advance major league scout is another post staffed by an African American. As evidenced by the titles, minorities have held more than functionary positions within the Orioles organization.
Further, the Orioles, in coordination with a local foundation, have launched an aggressive youth program that has provided the opportunity for several hundred inner city youngsters not only to play baseball but also to enhance their educational experience. The overall development of the Baltimore community, including the community's most precious resource, its children, is a top priority.
On another front, while Orioles games have been sellouts, the Orioles have not rested on their laurels. Several months ago, they formed an in-house committee to explore ways to attract more African Americans into the ballpark.
Diversity is essential. The Orioles are working toward that end.
In conclusion, the appointment of African Americans to important front office appointments and a sensitivity for societal obligations toward the greater community are meaningful endeavors, if not headline-grabbing actions. The efforts are typical of the progressive approaches pursued by the Orioles. The Orioles are worthy of minority support.
Leonard S. Coleman, Jr.
New York, N.Y.
The writer is the executive director of market development for Major League Baseball.
Lately there has been discussion concerning blacks and the Orioles. Figures were mentioned that only 5 percent of the fans are black in a city that's 60 percent black.
I am a black who has followed the Orioles since 1960, when I was 6 years old. There has always been a question of the Orioles' treatment of and commitment to their black and Hispanic players.
For example, it is unimaginable that the Orioles would trade their white stars. Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer were allowed to finish out their fading careers in Baltimore. Yet the greatest of all the Birds -- Frank Robinson -- was traded "while he still had some value."
Eddie Murray, who was the star of the last two Oriole pennants and World Series and a future Hall of Famer, was nearly run out of town. He had two tragedies in his immediate family. The fans gave him no sympathy. Instead, the talk shows were filled with "Is Eddie gay?"
He put up better numbers than any Oriole before or since (except maybe Frank), yet he was practically given to Los Angeles. (Quick. Whom did the Orioles get for Eddie, who years later is still producing?)
One of the best pitchers in all baseball is Dennis Martinez. He is in the top five or 10 in the important categories (earned run average and victories) this year.
Last year, he was either first or second in earned run average. During the 1992 season, his ERA has been under three runs a game.
Yet in Baltimore he was ridiculed as a lush. Every interview became a terrible experience for him.
Granted, he had a couple of cases of driving while intoxicated, but at the time there was a full-scale revolution in his homeland and he didn't know from day to day whether his family was safe or held prisoner or dead.
He got no sympathy from the Baltimore fans and talk show addicts. Right now, he's third in the National League in victories. (Quick. Whom did we get for Martinez, one of the most valued pitchers in baseball?)
Jose Mesa was a fill-in pitcher for the O's. He was never allowed to work a regular rhythm. Cleveland has given him a regular spot in the rotation and he's throwing shutouts. (Quick. Whom did we get for Mesa?)
The Orioles have two second basemen, Billy Ripken and Mark McLemore. Mac's average is 40 points higher, he has scored more runs, hit more triples, gotten more walks, has a better on-base percentage and has many more stolen bases. In errors, they're equal.
Billy Ripken has the lowest batting average on the Orioles and he starts for the offense-starved club, while McLemore sits on the bench.
Sam Horn has the best home run per at-bat ratio on the Orioles. He won't get 200 at-bats this year. Instead, Glenn Davis has 400 at bats and 10 homers.
Arthur Rhodes has great stuff. When he was pitching regularly, he was sensational. Now he's a fill-in. He pitched a lovely game and didn't get another start for 10 days. Predictably, he got bombed, lasting only 3 innings.
Ever listen to the Orioles games on the radio or on TV? The announcers are on a first-name basis with the white O's -- it's Cal and Brady and Billy and Chris. Black players are called Devereaux and Milligan and Horn and Gomez. It's unconscious, I'm sure, but that's the problem.